Wrongful Death in California
Nobody wants to talk about this subject. Nobody wants to discuss the heart-wrenching facts and circumstances that go hand in hand with a wrongful death claim. Unfortunately, keeping you informed is our job and while we certainly do not want to be morbid, we understand that often times, morbidity comes into play. At Khalil Law Group, we understand that the best way to teach the masses is by discussing subject matters that are pertinent and providing vital information to as many people as possible, even if that means talking about death and serious injury claims.
This article does just that. Here, we will discuss California’s wrongful death statute and analyze how the law looks at these types of cases.
California’s “wrongful death” law allows families to recover damages when a loved one has died as a result of someone’s negligence or a wrongful act.
Per California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, a cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by nay of the following persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.
- “The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”
A wrongful death action is brought by the survivors of the deceased person, or by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, and fault can be assessed and quantified based on the facts and the proof offered in court. If, in fact, the matter is taken all the way through litigation, the court can order one or more at-fault defendants to pay monetary damages to the decedent’s survivors.
It is important to note that wrongful death claims from a personal injury standpoint are not criminal court actions. While there may or may not be a criminal aspect to the claim, a wrongful death action is brought by the survivors of the deceased, whereas a criminal action is brought by the respective district attorney’s office. For example, if someone is killed in a car accident wherein the at-fault party was driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the district attorney’s office would bring criminal charges against the at-fault party. However, the civil case would be handled by attorney representing the decedent, the decedents heirs of the decedents estate. The criminal charges can be used as evidence against the at-fault party and can be a basis for a demand for punitive damages.
Wrongful death damages can include:
- Funeral Expenses
- Burial Expenses
- Medical & Hospital Bills
- Loss of income and potential income of the deceased
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (depriving family members of that person’s love and companionship).
- Out of pocket expenses to the family
- Punitive damages
- Special damages
- General damages
Losses that are typically attributed to the surviving family members include:
- the value of household services
- loss of anticipated financial support, and
- loss of love, community, attention, affection, moral support, and guidance.
Who can file a suit against a wrongful death?
Only certain people are allowed to file a suit for wrongful death in California that includes the relevant claim allows specific people as follows:
- Deceased person’s surviving Spouse
- Deceased person’s Domestic Partner
- Deceased person’s surviving Children
Essentially, anyone that is entitled to receive from the deceased individuals’ estate is entitled to bring an action for wrongful death.
In the event that one can show that they can show they were financially dependent on the deceased person, the following people can also bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California:
- the deceased person’s “putative spouse” and children of the putative spouse
- the deceased person’s stepchildren, and the deceased person’s parents.
What kinds of Accidents support the claim of a Wrongful Death?
- Car Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Child Abuse
- Slip and Fall
- Elder Abuse
- Pedestrian Knock- Downs
Additionally, Heirs can sue strict liability if the deceased was killed by a dog bite or a defective product in California.
How Long Does a Family Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
- Generally speaking, California law requires a wrongful death claim to be filed within two years of the date of the decedent’s death. (Which is also called the Statute of Limitation)
- If the case is not filed in the state’s civil court system within two years, there is a strong likelihood that the family will lose the right to file it at all.
If you are going through such an unfortunate event and looking to acquire more help in such cases,
Khalil Law Group is here to help!